Concerto for Cello
Concerto for Cello
for cello and orchestra, or band (1996, 1997)
- Premiere (orchestra version): 3 May 1996 / Olin Auditorium, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York / Robert La Rue, cello / The American Symphony Chamber Orchestra / Leon Botstein
- Premiere (wind orchestra version): 18 November 1997 / Baylor University Concert Hall, Waco, Texas / Robert La Rue, cello / The Baylor Wind Ensemble / Michael Haithcock
- Instrumentation: 2(II=picc).2.2.2-220.127.116.11-timp-str
- Duration: 25'
I. Mesto -- II. Allegro scorrevole -- III. Lento e largo; Allegro
In 1982, while still studying at the Curtis Institute, Hagen composed a work for Cello and Chamber orchestra entitled Stanzas for fellow student Robert LaRue. Hagen led the premiere of that work with the Orchestra Society of Philadelphia, with LaRue as soloist, on 10 April 1983 at the Presser Pavilion in Philadelphia. The work has since been withdrawn, but Hagen writes, "One of the fondest memories I retain from my years as a student at the Curtis Institute is the collaboration that began there with Robert La Rue." A testament to their long friendship, the present concerto was composed over a decade later, especially for La Rue.
It is interesting to note that the work began originally as concerto for violin, composed in 1994 while the composer summered in Sandpoint, Idaho. Unsatisfied with the work after playing through it with the violinist Maria Bachman, Hagen withdrew it and completely revised it for cello and larger orchestra during the Autumn of 1995 in New York City. (Hagen subsequently arranged the concerto during the Summer of 1997 for wind ensemble and cello. A recording of that version is available on the Arsis label.)
The piece is cast in three movements and has three musical ideas. The overall mood is one of somber introspection laced with dance-like sections sometimes neurotic, other times puckish. Hagen writes, 'The entire thing takes place during the course of a single feverish, sleepless night — say, from lights out until dawn. The first idea is a tattoo (a signal on a drum summoning soldiers to their quarters at night) heard first in the solo timpani. The second idea is that of a double neighbor figure — a note followed by it's upper and lower neighbors (this serves to infuse the harmonies and melodies of the entire piece with the intervals of the second and the ninth). The third idea is a brief sequence of chords first heard as quadruple stops in the solo cello.'
The overall form of the concerto is that of a rondo (ABACBA) with the first movement taking the first three sections (ABA) the second the C and the last the BA. The middle movement (set, according to the composer, at midnight) unfolds a sequence of 12 variations on the piece's three main ideas over a 12-note row which cycles in the manner of a passacaglia.
The wind ensemble version was first performed on 19 November, 1997 at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, with Robert LaRue, cello soloist. The Baylor University Wind Ensemble was conducted by Michael Haithcock. The orchestral version of the Concerto for Cello and Orchestra was first performed 3-4 May 1996 at the Olin Auditorium on the Bard College campus and repeated the next evening at Vassar College by the American Symphony Chamber Orchestra, Robert La Rue, cello soloist; the orchestra's Music Director Leon Botstein conducted.
... a serious piece, which evokes night visions and dreamlike (sometimes nightmarish) thoughts. The composer has a wonderful sense of instrumental color, and an accessible harmonic language.
— Records International Reviews , , Feb 99
...highly crafted, instrumentally colorful, basically tonal, and very listenable... the Concerto for Cello and Wind Ensemble (1997) was recast from different instrumentation for this wind- ensemble recording. The piece was originally written for the present soloist, Robert La Rue. At nearly 24 minutes in three movements, it's the longest piece here. The bulk of the material follows a more introspective path, long-breathed melody with counterpoint, though the second movement returns to the rhythmic drive prevalent in the other pieces. There are some genuinely lovely passages here.
— Robert Kirzinger, Fanfare Magazine, September/October, 1999
...the Concerto for Cello and Wind Ensemble is a work whose compositional methodology centers around the varying moods of sleep. Especially effective is the use of percussion to underscore the agitated aspects of a sleepless night."
— Tower Records Reviews, Online, 1999